A shining example

by James Menzies

MONTREAL, Que. — Moving household goods is a tough job, but it has its perks. Like moving VIPs and celebrities, and getting to solve complex challenges every day.

Ron Pridmore

“It’s hard work, but it’s different every day,” said Ron Pridmore, the 2019 Highway Star of the Year, who was announced as such at this year’s ExpoCam show in Montreal April 13. “It’s challenging. Some days are more challenging than others.”

Pridmore has been in the moving business since about 1976, when a friend asked him to help with a move. He’s been at it ever since, operating his own truck and spending the majority of his career – 40 years – with United Van Lines and its affiliate Campbell Moving, which nominated him for the award.

“For me, it’s not really trucking. It’s more. Driving isn’t the whole job, it’s moving people,” Pridmore said in an interview with Truck News prior to the award presentation.

Pridmore became so reliable that Cambpell Moving would count on him to handle the majority of its VIP moves. These included Prime Ministers, an astronaut, and a roster of NHL hockey players. The highlight?

“We moved Jason Spezza and he was so excited he came to work in his slippers,” friend and co-worker Mike Jingras quipped.

True story, the diehard Senators fan acknowledged, admitting he forgot to put on his boots that day. Pridmore has decorated his truck in Ottawa Senators decals and contributed it to local charity drives and parades. Another memorable move involved relocating Marian Hossa after he was traded from the Senators. Pridmore had just purchased his jersey two days earlier.

“I said, ‘You owe me $200,’” he joked.

The household moving gig has given him many memories, and he has hundreds of pictures of the most interesting of those adventures. When he moved Julie Payette, a Canadian astronaut, to the U.S. about 20 years ago, he gained access to normally restricted areas at NASA.

Pridmore bought his first truck in 1984, and just recently sold his latest highway tractor. He’s focusing now on overseas moves using containers so he can be home more often with Claudette, his wife of 40 years. But it doesn’t mean the type of work will be any simpler. One of the biggest challenges facing movers is navigating residential areas, which are usually not designed to accommodate heavy trucks.

“A lot of times we have to do a shuttle. We have to have a small truck to load the furniture in and then reload it in our truck. We always have low wires to deal with, bad parking, double parking. Winter time is the worst,” Pridmore explained.

And neighbors aren’t always cooperative, either. Jingras recalled a move where a neighbor called the city bylaw officers to complain of the truck’s location. Pridmore and Jingras promised to move the truck anytime she wanted out.

“We always do that,” said Jingras. “So, the lady kept going in and out all day. The sixth time, her car stalls in the middle of the street and she says ‘Can you push me?’ We have to take care of it and be polite about it.”

“It’s funny, the things you have to deal with it,” Pridmore added. “You can’t get mad.”

And it’s hard to imagine the soft-spoken, affable Pridmore ever getting mad. He has a friendly demeanor, which helps him to immediately make customers comfortable. After all, he’s handling their most valued possessions.

“We get them on our side very quickly,” he said. “You’ve just gotta be good, make sure everything is wrapped in the house. I usually take care of their most concerned piece right away and when they see that’s done, it tells them there’ll be no problems. Most people leave.”

Last year, Pridmore said he had no damage claims.

Loading the truck is an “art,” according to Pridmore. “It’s to the roof. Everything is taken apart and every little hole is filled.” Most loads gross close to 80,000 lbs.

While he thinks of himself as more of a mover than a trucker, Pridmore admits to enjoying the time behind the wheel.

“The driving is nice,” he said. “You get to relax and recuperate.”

Pridmore was joined by Jingras at the award ceremony in Montreal. The two have worked together for more than 20 years and share an obvious camaraderie.

“We have a lot of fun on the job. We laugh all day,” said Jingras.

“We make the job fun,” Pridmore added.

But after 40 years on the highway, Pridmore welcomes the opportunity to be at home more with his wife Claudette, who is battling breast cancer. It’s a cause Pridmore has taken to supporting personally. When he moved Maple Leafs star Patrick Marleau to Toronto from San Jose, Calif., he was given an autographed stick as a thank you. Pridmore sold it for $1,000 and donated the money to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

“She used to come with me (on the road),” Pridmore said. “She couldn’t anymore. It was too hard.”

He also builds customized model trucks. His favorites are “tribute trucks,” which he builds for the families of fallen truckers, with their loved one’s image in the window. He’s also been called on to make some unexpected moves of a different type, one of which got him a mention in the local newspaper. In the early ’80s Pridmore was doing a move in Ottawa during the winter. The snowbanks were piled high and a young lady got out of a taxi wearing a full leg cast. Unable to climb over the snowbank, Pridmore and his partner picked her up and carried her up the three floors to her apartment.

Asked for his reaction to winning the award, Pridmore said “I’m very humbled. It was a bit of a shock.”

But then, as always, he quickly followed that up with a joke. “I mean, I paid a lot of money for publicity. Billboards and stuff.”

Asked what he’s most proud of during his career, Pridmore cited his 40-year accident-free driving achievement as one that he cherishes.

“That’s why I took the train here,” he quipped. “Just to be safe.”

The Highway Star of the Year award is presented by Newcom Media, and sponsored by Freightliner and Eberspaecher. Pridmore took home $10,000 in cash, additional prizes from sponsors, and enjoyed a trip for two to Montreal to accept the award.

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